Episodes Archive

Clocks, Mugs and Other Nerdy Gift Ideas #614

November 22, 2022

It's that time of year when Rachelle spends far too much time finding strange and wonderful new clocks, Bethany adds more mugs to her collection, and together we spend some time embracing our inner holiday-consumer and getting excited about lots of wonderful, delightful, charming and (sometimes) weird things you might get the geeks in your life. As always, you can find a blog post companion to this episode with links to everything we discussed in this episode. And if that's still not enough to satisfy your nerdy gift-giving needs, you can always check out our full Bookshelf here, or take... Read More

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Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains #613

November 10, 2022

We all know what a "pest" is. We can all point to creatures that are pests in our neighborhoods, those invasive hard-to-get-rid-of, disruptive animals that civilization seems to be in constant battle with. The rats, the racoons, the pigeons... But what makes them pests, really? Who decides? And what about other animals that are pests to some - cats, elephants, and deer for example - but not to others? Rachelle Saunders speaks with our very own Bethany Brookshire about her new book "Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains" and explore how our very human problem with pests is really more... Read More

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The Poopisode #612

October 25, 2022

Number 2. Poop. Crap. Doodoo. It's something that a lot of people just want to flush and forget, but others want to talk about it. Do they poop too much? Not enough? Easily enough? Not only can poop tell us about ourselves and our health, though, it could also doo much more. Feces can fertilize our crops, and with the right processing, toilet water can be refreshing. All we need to do is rethink our relationship with poo. This week we sit down with Bryn Nelson to talk about his new book Flush: The Remarkable Science of an Unlikely Treasure.... Read More

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Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life #611

October 17, 2022

Usually when we talk about electricity we're talking about the technology that runs the modern world, but electricity is a lot more integral to our existance than making our tech work. Without electricty our bodies don't know how to move, see or hear, and the history of how we came to understand what electricity is and what it can do is wrapped up in our exploration of biology. Rachelle Saunders speaks with Tim Jorgensen, author of the new book "Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life", about the intertwined nature of electricity and life and how we... Read More

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Thieving Trees #610

September 26, 2022

The word "poaching" conjures images of elephants, tigers and pangolins. But there's a multi-billion dollar industry in poaching...trees. It might seem ok at first, trees grow back right? But it's so much more complicated than that. Today we're talking with Lyndsie Bourgon about her new book Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America's Woods. Read More

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A world of universal vaccines #609

September 12, 2022

It seems like no one vaccine is ever enough. COVID mutates and the vaccines fall short. A new flu vaccine every year, and each one different from the last. Wouldn't it be nice if we just could get one? One flu shot and call it done? One COVID vaccine and make everything better? Well, scientists are trying their best to develop universal vaccines--one vaccine for the flu, one for COVID, and some for...worms? Yes. Worms. This week, we chat with Kawsar Talaat, an infectious diseases researcher at Johns Hopkins University, and Maria Elena Bottozzi, co-director of the vaccine center at... Read More

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Bone Proteins and Body Farms #608

August 31, 2022

Television dramas make it seem like easy work for forensic investigators to determine when a person has died. But figuring out the time since death can be tricky for bodies that have weathered away to mere skeletons. This week we’re talking with forensic scientist and molecular biotechnologist Noemi Procopio about how proteins in bones could help. Procopio’s lab is looking for markers in bones that reveal a person’s age at death, how long it’s been since they died and the environment a body has been in. She also shares about her experience working on body farms scraping clues from bones.... Read More

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Shark Matters #607

August 22, 2022

Sharks are fascinating, often misunderstood creatures, and many of them are threatened or endangered, and they definitely deserve our conservation effort. But conservation effort takes time, money, and focused attention: all things that are limited resources, as much as we might wish they weren't. So how do we focus our conservation efforst to make the biggest real impact for sharks (and other creatures) in an evidence-based way? We speak with interdisciplinary marine conservation biologist and author David Shiffman about his new book "Why Sharks Matter: A Deep Dive with the World's Most Misunderstood Predator", and dig deep into the ins... Read More

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Carte Blanche: The Erosion of Medical Consent #606

August 03, 2022

Even the luckiest and healthiest of us will interact with the medical systems we live in eventually, and navigating these systems can be frustrating, scary, and intimidating. In this labyrinth filled with jargon, bureaucracy, and opaque layers of expertise we often don't understand, we expect to have some control over what happens to our bodies and to get a say in opting in or out of what treatments are offered, in particular if they are experimental. But this assumption does not always hold true, and we are not always aware of when our ability consent to medical research has been... Read More

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Designing wilderness #605

July 18, 2022

There's no doubt that we humans have done some pretty awful things to our landscapes. Draining swamps, cutting down forests, shooting almost all the bison. Now, there are movements to preserve, conserve and bring those landscapes back. But for whom? Who benefits? This week we are talking to Laura Martin, author of the book Wild by Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration about the often colonizing history of ecological restoration, and what that means for its future. Read More

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Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces #604

July 08, 2022

This week we’re zooming in on surfaces, where lots of action happens as things slip, grip, slide, and more. Our guest Laurie Winkless, author of the book "Sticky: The Secret Science of Surfaces", takes us on a tour of these in-between spaces, delving into what’s going on with atoms and molecules and how that plays out in nature and the engineered world. Read More

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Remaking the face #603

June 07, 2022

In 2022 it seems surgery can perform miracles. Plastic surgery in particular can reshape noses, jaws, and even transplant entire faces. But not so long ago, plastic surgery as a field didn't even exist. This week, we're going back to the trenches of World War I to learn about the birth of plastic surgery in Lindsey Fitzharris' new book: The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Faces of World War I. We'll go ahead and warn you not to listen while eating. Read More

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Working while Marginalized #602

May 23, 2022

The thing about humans is that, as a social species, we work with other people. And this means we often, consciously or unconsciously, end up being awful to each other. If you are someone who is marginalized in the workplace--something that often happens to people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities and white women--how do you deal? The advice to lean in, put your head down and do the work, it's just not working. This week, we're talking with Alan Henry about his new guide to getting ahead as a marginalized person at work with his new book, Seen,... Read More

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This is not about dinosaurs #601

April 25, 2022

Most people know how the age of dinosaurs ended. An asteroid hit and all the dinosaurs died out. But it's never quite that simple. In her newest book, The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: An Asteroid, Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World, Riley Black describes what the immediate post-impact world looked like, and what it would become. Read More

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The one about vaginas #600

April 11, 2022

Vagina. Clitoris. Uterus. Ovary. These are body parts that about half the population is born with. And yet, there are so many questions about them that scientists have never answered. But there's also more new science about the vagina than you've ever, ever dreamed. We're talking with Rachel Gross about her new book Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Journey. Read More

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Losing Our Minds #599

March 29, 2022

Mental illness is being discussed openly and publicly more than it ever has been, but our understanding of what it is and its impacts are still a work-in-progress. What is mental illness and how do we distinguish it from the expected suffering that comes from being human? How has the public discussion around mental illness impacted our language, sometimes mixing together clinical language and colloquial language in complicated, confusing ways? We speak with academic psychologist Lucy Foulkes about her book "Losing Our Minds: What Mental Illness Really Is - And Isn't" and dig into the complexity of what mental illness... Read More

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Train, boat, truck, it's the supply chain #598

March 14, 2022

I'm sure we've all heard the phrase 'supply chain disruption' by now. It might bring to mind ships floating outside LA or trucks jackknifed across a highway in the snow. But it's far, far more than that. Get ready for miles of conveyor belts and the largest robot in the world. Christopher Mims is here to talk about his book Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door -- Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy. Read More

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The Trouble With Passion #597

February 18, 2022

Choosing a career path is a big decision. In the modern western world a career is practically synonymous with identity: whether we like it our not, what we do is a big part of who we are. And we are told to choose a career carefully, to find and follow our passion. But what is passion in this context? And why should we follow it? Does following passion into a career path leave us happier? Leave us on more sturdy footing in our life and career? Who gets ahead and who gets left behind when we all chase passion to... Read More

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Tailoring your brain with science #596

January 31, 2022

Intent on improving your creativity or focus? Want to raise your IQ? What does that even mean? This week, we've got Emily Willingham back on the show to talk about tailoring the brain with science: The good, the bad, and the totally not proven. We're talking about her new book The Tailored Brain: From Ketamine, to Keto, to Companionship: A user's guide to feeling better and thinking smarter. Read More

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Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning Through Making #595

January 17, 2022

In Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning Through Making, author Anna Ploszajski takes her experience of materials science out of the lab and into the world of craftspeople. Ploszajski's quest to fashion a broader perspective on stuff surpasses the dry and academic. In her book, Anna brings readers along through an exploration of materials ancient and modern, bringing out the ways that matter intersects with society and identity. On the show, we’ll talk about matter from glass to human hair, and we'll hear about the entwined history of some materials and how they have shaped history. Read More

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